When youngsters at West Patent Elementary school in Bedford Hills got a glimpse of their nurse, Maria Reino, knitting, they were fascinated.
“They asked me what I was making — then more and more children would come and watch me knit,” said Reino, who picks up her knitting needles when her office is quiet. The children’s interest sparked an idea which Reino shared with the school’s principal, Judy Brewster.
“I proposed a knitting club for those who seemed really interested,” Reino noted.
Brewster loved the idea.
“The Knitting Club came out of a love for knitting by people who the kids know and often see them knitting,” said Brewster, referring not only to Reino but to her secretary, Kelly Smith, and to Margaret Rose Goodman, the elementary consulting teacher.
The club started in September, with 12 boys and girls in the initial group.
“They were truly interested in learning a new skill and they meet during recess,” Goodman said. “The group actually has a waiting list.”
Reino, Smith and Goodman gave up their lunch, and the students gave up their recess, to meet for about 25 minutes once a week.
Working directly with the children are Goodman, Reino and Smith who started teaching students to make their own hats.
West Patent’s character education initiative teaches core virtues such as common courtesy, respect, kindness, courage, honesty and friendship.
“We decided to have students knit a different color square for each core virtue and create a quilt from the squares,” said Goodman. “The children learned to focus, have patience and help each other. They showed great team work.”
Small fingers weaving brightly hued yarn inspired another idea: making hats for those in need. Earlier in the school year West Patent initiated the Books for Buddies service learning project, to help build libraries for the Paradise Elementary Schools; last fall’s deadly wildfires in California destroyed all five elementary schools in Paradise. There was more that could be done to help Paradise.
Since the northern town is cold and snowy in the winter, why not knit hats for children of Paradise? The Knitting for Friends project officially started in June.
“We set a modest goal of 250 knitted or crocheted hats but ultimately we’d love to get more than 750 warm winter hats for every student in Paradise by December,” Reino said.
Flyers about the project were distributed and it didn’t take long for the community to embrace the project wholeheartedly. Pick Up Every Stitch in Mt. Kisco donated the yarn. Loopy Mango donated knitting needles.
“The project has grown much more than we expected,” said Brewster.
Parents supportive of the project brought their children to Pick Up Every Stitch to pick out yarn.
“We heard some children were in the store for a long time talking to customers,” Reino said. “Bedford Village Library has a knitting group and their members are working on hats as well.”
What started out as a small group of youngsters learning to knit hats and quilt squares has had a far-reaching impact for their school and for the community.
“We are teaching our students how to make our school and the world a better place,” said Goodman.
The Knitting for Friends project has a goal of 250-plus warm hats to send to K-5 school children in Paradise, California by late fall. Below is contact information for those interested in contributing or getting involved.
Drop off location: Pick Up Every Stitch or send to West Patent Elementary School if you have a family member who attends the school.